By Anne McKee
Four crowns you ask? Yes, just think of four vital communities all clustered in Newton County Mississippi
Decatur – Population 1426
The Newton County Courthouse is located at Decatur and was first constructed in 1840 – it burned and was reconstructed in 1845. It was destroyed again during The Civil War, February 1864, when General Sherman marched through the town. Finally a brick courthouse was built at the cost of $7000.00 in 1877. Today the Newton County Courthouse continues to serve the people.
As an educational leader for Newton County, East Central Community College located at Decatur, had its earliest beginnings in 1912. ECCC continues to be an academic leader for the entire region.
On a personal note, I know very well the talented and community minded people living at Decatur. The Woman’s Progressive Club of Decatur portrays the immense energy of community involvement and support that is prevalent throughout the area with such projects as recycling and town beautification. The Bobashela Chapter, Daughters of The American Revolution located at Decatur continues the tradition of upholding our rich historic legacy – along with this endeavor is the very active Newton County Historical and Genealogical Society under the leadership of Harold Graham.
On a recent Saturday morning, I, along with my cousin Becky Chaney, and our good buddy Barry McMullan, toured the western edge of Newton County. It was an attempt to follow the track of General Sherman as he entered Newton County, February 1864. The Newton County Historical and Genealogical Society organized the tour and tour guide was Ricky Harrison. Nearly forty eager people peered from the ECCC bus as Ricky explained the route that was followed so many years ago. We rambled along near Box Creek to see a high point where the soldiers encamped and some say that even today, and on many dark nights, the campfires can still be seen. Yikes! Later we toured the Alex-Russell House, constructed in 1859, located on the Decatur-Conehatta Road. There is a book signing planned by The Newton County Historical and Genealogical Society on December 13, 10:00 am. The author is native Mississippian author, Hewitt Clark. Some of his books are: “Bloody Kemper”, “The East End Tea Room”, and “Thunder at Meridian”. For more information: (601) 635-2350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hickory – Population 499
If you’re looking for a historic little town, then Hickory is the place. The delightful community is known as “a little town with a big heart.” It’s located on MS State Hwy 80 and at one time Highway 80 was the main thoroughfare through the southern part of the county. At that time the town supported a thriving downtown area with restaurants, a motel and gas stations, but since the building of Interstate 20, the town has dwindled. Dwindled in size perhaps, but not in the community spirit where there are many dedicated residents supported by several churches and other community-oriented activities. The town is named after Andrew Jackson, nicknamed “Old Hickory” who passed through the area on his way to fight the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Catch the Hickory Christmas Parade, December 6 at 3:00 pm.
Newton – Population 3699
Newton is a thriving city located on Interstate 20. Recently it graduated from a great, small town to the status of a city. The graduation is just and due because of the many new businesses opening at Newton during the last two years. The 2009 city planning includes additional opportunities for business as well as the arts and historical endeavors.
Here are a few upcoming important dates for the city of Newton:
November 24 - Ribbon cutting at Blackwell Accounting, 4:00 pm – historical downtown Newton.
December 4 - Newton Christmas Parade, 6:00 pm - historic downtown Newton, Main Street.
December 4 - Lions Club Pancake Supper after the parade, 4-8 pm, Train Depot.
December 5, Holiday Tool Sale, Train Depot – 8 am – 9 pm.
December 7, Live Drive Thru Nativity Scene at Newton UMC, 6:00 pm.
December 8 Christmas for the Children, Train Depot.
December 11 – Christmas at the Roxy Theater, Christmas by Candlelight Downtown.
Union – Population 2021
I’m happy that you have continued to read this column to this point, because I think the following information will re-enforce the strength of the fabric and integrity of our Mississippi people as told through the story of Union. The town of Union was settled as early as 1833 and was situated directly on the stage line running from Montgomery AL to Jackson MS, and thus Boler’s Inn came into existence. I like to think of Boler’s Inn as the jewel in the crown of Union Mississippi. You see, Boler’s Inn is a survivor – three times a survivor. Newton County pioneer, Wesley Boler in 1856, built it. The structure was first used as a home and eventually became a thriving stagecoach inn – at the time the only one located East of the Mississippi River. Over the years the historic dwelling served in many capacities including a saloon, additional space for the First Presbyterian Church, a printing press for the infant Union Appeal Newspaper, a furrier, but the most memorable of its service was for General Sherman. He commandeered the dwelling and spent the night there. It is said he chose not to burn the town because of its name. He felt the name “Union” signified the Union of the United States of America, and therefore the little town was spared the ravages of war. That was survival number one – after many years of neglect, a community-minded group came forth to save the historic structure from the final destruction of a tumbledown eyesore. With this group, Boler’s Inn was saved once again, and the third time was during the devastations of Katrina. Yes, three times a survivor. Its final survival is due mainly by the efforts of the Boler’s Inn Restoration Committee. President, Nancy Moore and the directors comprised of Rex Gordon, Jim Moore, Martha Moore, Kate Thomas, Marcus Herrington, Sr, Marcus Herrington, Jr., Joyce Nicholson, John Knoop, Ruth Neal, Jason McElhenney, and Brian Norman, continue with the needs of Boler’s Inn. The efforts of this group re-enforces the true American spirit, and they continue with their Boler’s Inn dream by planning gardens, building walkways, planning a historic CD, full handicap accessibility (the downstairs is accessible now) and a beautiful artistic mural depicting the Inn as it looked during the stagecoach era. To fund these efforts, the Inn will sale on Monday and Tuesday smoked Boston Butts and Turkeys ($25.00 each). In addition, the Inn will open for Christmas tours throughout the month of December ($5.00 per tour). Please call (601) 635-3160 to book a tour or order the meat. Do you want to be a part of history? A donation to the Boler’s Inn project will do just that.
Well, today I’ve taken you on a tour of Newton County Mississippi – bet you can’t wait to make a visit. Go ahead and make your plans to discover the wonderment of our neighbors to the West.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller who lives in Meridian. She is listed on the Mississippi Artist Roster as a literary artist, and she is active with the arts communities throughout Mississippi.